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Private prison companies continue to expand under Trump

The private prison business is booming under President Trump, reports the Houston Chronicle.

 

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised to crack down on undocumented immigrants in the U.S. In the first three months of Trump's presidency, over 113,000 immigrants were locked up across the country in 180 different facilities. The Houston Chronicle says this is a 10 percent increase from the same time period in 2016. These increases mean big business for CoreCivic and GEO Group, the two largest private prison companies in the U.S.

 

The increase in business revenue comes from the number of individuals detained, and also from the length of time they are detained. In most cases, private prison companies are paid on a per diem rate per prisoner, meaning the longer they are detained the more money private prisons companies make.

 

This will have a large impact in Texas. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) works with at least 25 facilities in the state, which hold about one third of the nation's ICE prisoners. Texas already has more privately run prisons than any other state, and is expecting to see that number grow. ICE already awarded a contract to GEO Group to construct and operate a new $100 million immigrant detention center in Conroe, Texas. Residents of Conroe are unhappy with the contract, and have been protesting what will become the largest immigrant detention center once it is constructed.

 

As shown by the residents of Conroe, private prisons are not welcome in our communities and should not be built or used. When will the government listen to the voices of the people?

Settlement reached with ICE over medical evaluations

A settlement has been reached between immigration officials and pro bono attorneys regarding medical evaluations at the Dilley family detention center, Texas, reports the San Antonio Express.

 

The lawsuit, filed in June, was from the Dilley Pro Bono Project, which works to provide legal services to women and children detained in Dilley, Texas. The lawsuit stated that a legal assistant was barred from visiting detainees at the detention center. ICE barred the legal assistant after they set up a telephonic medical evaluation for one of their clients. ICE policy states that medical evaluations must be approved at least 24 hours before the evaluation.

 

The settlement requires ICE to more quickly make decisions in regards to allowing medical evaluations, and limits when ICE can deny medical providers access to the detention center in Dilley, as well as the other family detention center in Karnes County, Texas.

 

This is not the first time ICE has limited attorney access to women and children detained in Dilley. Attorneys were denied access in 2015 after they lodged a series of complaints over due process violations. It is also vital that medical providers are given full access to the centers, since ICE has denied care to a young girl with cancer locked up at a family detention center in the past.  

Private prison guard caught sleeping on the job

A private prison guard was photographed sleeping while guarding an inmate in a Texas hospital, reports KRGV 5 news.

 

The unnamed guard worked at the Willacy County State Jail, which is operated by the private prison company CoreCivic (formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America). The guard was watching over a prisoner on August 1 at the Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen, Texas. CoreCivic launched an investigation into the incident following the picture, and had this to say:

 

"We can confirm that the photograph is of a CoreCivic/Willacy County State Jail correctional officer and this is certainly a behavior we do not condone. Due to the serious nature of his behavior and numerous policy violations, the employee has been terminated from his position with the company effective immediately.”

 

Unfortunately, this is not the first issue around the Willacy County Jail. In 2015, an uprising by prisoners due to inadequate medical care caused fires that led to the closing of the facility. Then, in November of 2016, two former guards were charged with bribery. Both guards were found guilty and were sentenced to jail time.

 

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Dozens are transferred to a private prison referred to as "Hell"

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is transferring dozens of women to a private prison in Texas, reports Buzzfeed News.

 

A spokesperson with DHS confirmed that the department had begun transferring women from a facility operated by CoreCivic in New Mexico. That facility is closing due to a consistently low number of prisoners. The women will be transferred to the West Texas Detention Facility, located in Sierra Blanca, Texas. Human rights activists said that the transfers began without DHS notifying the attorneys who represent the women being transferred.

 

The prison has been operated by numerous private companies since 2015, including Emerald Correctional Management and LaSalle Corrections. Last year the U.S. Marshals began to monitor conditions at the prison following prisoners’ complaints of inhumane treatment.  

 

In May, Martín Méndez Pineda, a Mexican journalist, was detained in the Sierra Blanca facility after seeking asylum in the U.S. Pineda decided to "self-deport" instead of staying at the facility. Pineda wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post in which he made numerous complaints against the facility, and aptly described it as “Hell.”

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For-profit transitional home won't pay their bills

A for-profit transitional home in Dallas County has not paid the county for emergency medical help since last October, reports Fox 4 News.

 

The Avalon Dallas Transitional Home, which houses individuals recently released from prison with no place to live, has made excessive 911 calls for medical aid. However, the for-profit company that operates the facility, CoreCivic (formerly called Corrections Corporation of America), has yet to pay Dallas County for the aid.

 

John Wiley Price, a commissioner in Dallas County, is angry that the private prison company has not paid its bills to county, despite getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars from the state. Fox News 4 obtained documents showing that between October 2016 and July 2017, 243 emergency calls were made from the Avalon Dallas Transitional Home. Each time a Dallas County ambulance responded to one of these calls, it cost $450. The total cost of the calls in that period amount to $222,900. The county has yet to see a penny of that.

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A diabetic migrant's medication trashed while held for ICE in CCA custody

A diabetic woman detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and held in a Corrections Corporation of America (now called CoreCivic) detention center had her medication thrown away, Rewire reports.

 

Brenda Menjivar Guardado, from El Salvador, was detained in June at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center, which is used to detain asylum-seeking women as their asylum case goes through the courts. Guardado has Type 1 diabetes, but had managed her condition throughout her journey to the United States. Once she was in ICE custody, however, her medicine was thrown away, according to Rewire.

 

While detained at Hutto, Guardado was given new medication, but it was ineffective. According to a press release from Grassroots Leadership, Guardado's glucose skyrocketed to 452, with normal glucose levels being between 90 and 100. When she asked for improved medication, officials at Hutto told her to drink more water. They also stated she should go back to El Salvador if she wanted better care.

 

American Gateways, a pro bono legal service that aids women in Hutto, tried to get her removed from custody due to Guardado's medical emergency, but the request was denied. Though Guardado fears for her life in El Salvador, she decided to accept deportation in hopes of receiving improved medical care. She is currently detained in Laredo as she awaits her deportation.

 

The Hutto Detention Center is operated by CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), a for-profit prison company with a history of medical neglect.  CoreCivic also operates multiple other immigrant detention centers and prison throughout Texas.

 

 

One private prison company replaces another

One private prison company is taking a contract away from their competition, reports the Longview News-Journal.

 

Management and Training Corporation (MTC) is a Utah-based private prison company that recently was contracted to CoreCivic, another for-profit prison company. CoreCivic had operated the Bradshaw State Jail for 13 years, but recently lost their bid to renew the contract for the facility. Due to the failed contract renewal, over 500 workers from three different detention centers in Texas will be laid off.

 

MTC, which operates the East Texas Treatment Facility near the Bradshaw State Jail, will take over operations of Bradshaw starting on September 1. The company plans on hiring the majority of the employees from the Bradshaw State Jail that will be laid off by CoreCivic following their failed bid.

ICE interfering with medical evaluations

A lawsuit has been filed against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on behalf of immigrants detained at the Dilley family detention center, reports the San Antonio Express.

 

The lawsuit stated that a legal assistant with the Dilley Pro Bono Project was barred from meeting detainees at the detention center in Dilley, which is operated by CoreCivic, one of the nation’s largest private prison companies. The legal assistant had set up a telephonic medical evaluation without ICE's permission, after which they barred her from visiting.

 

ICE's policy required lawyers to get permission at least 24 hours in advance for medical evaluations. The lawsuit stated that policy interfered with the Pro Bono Project's ability to adequately represent their clients.

Private prison's scheme to license baby jails fails in Texas

Karnes County Civil Detention Center
A proposal written by a private prison company to license baby jails as child care facilities has failed, according to a press release from Grassroots Leadership.

The proposal was written to bypass a ruling by an Austin-area judge in a lawsuit filed by immigrant families saying Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) could not license the family detention centers as child care facilities. If the bills to license had passed, they would have resulted in the prolonged detention of families at two family detention centers in Texas —  the South Texas Residential Center and the Karnes County Residential Center. These facilities are operated by two private prison companies, CoreCivic (formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America) and the GEO Group respectively.

Dilley family detention camp

The passage of this law would have been a boon to private prison companies, as evident by these companies paying lobbyists $480,000 to advocate for their interests to the Texas legislature.

Representative John Raney, a Republican who authored the House version of the bill, even admitted that the legislation came directly from a GEO lobbyist.

"I've known the lady who's their lobbyist for a long time ...That's where the legislation came from," said state Rep. John Raney, a Republican from the rural town of Bryan. "We don't make things up. People bring things to us and ask us to help."

In a legislative session where racism and bigotry won most of the time, having this bill die was a welcome, positive result.

A mother locked up in family detention attempts suicide in bid to have children released

A mother detained in a family detention center attempted suicide, reports the Huffington Post.

Samira Hakimi of Afghanistan has been detained at both the Dilley family detention center and the Karnes family detention center with her two young children. Hakimi passed her credible fear interview, an important first step in the asylum process. Normally an individual would be freed so they can continue their case in immigration court. However, Hakimi and her family are still detained and ICE has given no reason as to why. Hakimi's sister-in-law is also detained in Karnes with her 10-month-old baby.

 Hakimi has been suffering from clinical depression due to being detained for months, and felt particularly low when her son asked her why some families were leaving but they were not.

 Amy Fisher, policy director at RAICES, a non-profit focused on providing legal aid to families in detention, said, "She was crying and really depressed. And she went into this thought process, when she was really low, thinking, ‘Well, if I’m no longer here, maybe my children can be free.’" Children cannot be held in family detention without a family member or guardian.

 Following her suicide attempt, Hakimi woke up in the medical center at Karnes and was then taken to a nearby hospital. Staff from the detention center gave her medicine but did not give a reason as to what the medicine was or the purpose of it. Hakimi did not know what the medicine was, and RAICES is currently requesting her medical records.

 Dr. Luis Zayas, dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Texas, has interviewed countless individuals in detention and documented the effects of detention on children. “This is what happens when people get desperate,” Zayas said. “This woman is suffering a mental health crisis. But we know where it’s coming from. We know what we can do to stop it.”

 Dr. Zayas is right. We know what we can do to stop it. We must end family detention.

 

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